Year One Review

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In a Paleolithic kinda-Eden live brash hunter Zed (Black) and sensitive gatherer Oh (Cera). But, after Zed eats forbidden fruit and accidentally burns down their village, he and Oh are exiled, leading them on a journey towards Sodom — via a few biblical i


Harold Ramis has been honest about the influences on his Old Testament road-trip comedy Year One. Firstly, an improvisation he himself staged more than three decades ago, in which Bill Murray played Cro-Magnon man and John Belushi Neanderthal man. Secondly, Mel Brooks’ 2000 Year Old Man skit. Two things are clear from the result. One, that this film is certainly more Mel Brooks (specifically The History Of The World, Part I) than another obvious influence, Monty Python’s Life Of Brian. Two, that Jack Black and Michael Cera are no Murray and Belushi.

As rubbish hunter-gatherers, the pair are required only to riff on personae they’ve long since worn out: Black’s eyebrow-jiggling, horny loudmouth, and Cera’s querulous, knowing naïf. Which wouldn’t be so problematic if they’d been energised by a decent script. Instead, they’re required to respectively bug out and nervously pigeon-step through a series of sub-SNL sketches that deny the guest stars (Paul Rudd, David Cross, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Hank Azaria…) as many laughs as themselves, relying more on gross-out humour than any alleged religious satire.

So we have Black licking poo; Cera sharing a bed with a flatulent manchild; Cera oiling up a fat, hairy, grotesque-gay-stereotype priest (Oliver Platt); and Cera pissing copiously on his own face. There’s also an embarrassing vein of limp sex-comedy, which, like every Carry On, is obsessed with the pursuit of coitus but shies away from presenting the act itself.

Where, then, is the satirical bite? If you’re going to locate your comedy at the birth of the Abrahamic religions, you should try to do better than a circumcision gag. But Ramis’ script is toothless, mustering up little more than a vague ‘religion (at least the kind that involves burning virgins) is bad, go do your own thing’ message. Ramis should have concerned himself with the film’s continuity and internal logic. Here’s a good one: what happened to the snake, which one moment is constricting Cera and the next has disappeared, never to be mentioned again? Answers on a stone tablet, please.

Unless you pine for second-tier Mel Brooks, you’ll find more laughs in the Old Testament itself.